Bygone Brookland, written by Robert Malesky, takes a historical look at the neighborhood of Brookland and surrounding environs. Robert, a former producer for NPR, is the author of the photographic history The Catholic University of America for Arcadia Publishing.

It’s Homecoming weekend at The Catholic University of America, and it got me thinking about a previous homecoming, back when I was a student. I was a freshman in the prehistoric days of 1967, when fraternities and the Greek system were not as strong as they once had been. I and many of my friends were not much interested in joining a frat, but we did want to join in some of the traditional Homecoming activities, like building a float for the parade in the stadium. A small group of us managed to finagle permission to participate as Independents, so then we needed to build a float.

We decided that if we could get a big barrel, we could mount wheels on it, decorate it, and use that in the parade. So a couple of us went to the Heckman’s pickle factory, which nestled right against the railroad tracks at 811 Monroe Street (behind what is now the Byte Back house on 9th St.).

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acob Heckman immigrated from Russia and started the Heckman Products Corporation in 1919. At first located on Rhode Island Avenue, Heckman’s moved to Brookland in 1941, and was the only pickle factory in DC. They supplied Giant, Safeway, and all the other local food stores with good, fresh pickles: Tiny-Tot Sweet Gherkins, Kosher Kukumbers, Cheese and Cracker pickles, Cocktail Onions and dozens of other types.

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Inside the factory, the pungent aroma of vinegar and pickling spices could almost knock you over, but the ladies working the line weren’t bothered by it. Heckman’s didn’t manufacture the pickles in big vats as was the norm, instead preparing them in the small jars that would go on store shelves. At its peak Heckman’s was producing 100,000 bushels of pickles a year. It was a Brookland institution. After watching the production line for a while, we bought a barrel ($5, if I remember right), hosed it out in the back, then rolled it back to the dorm.

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An aerial shot from the early 1960s that shows the Heckman factory.
Courtesy Catholic University of America Archives.

WMATA bought the property where the factory stood and in 1973 Heckman’s was forced to move as Metro needed to alter the track bed and shrink the lot in order to make way for the Brookland Metro stop. Heckman’s moved to Prince George’s County, and their ads continued to appear until the early 1980s when they seemed to disappear. But fortunately, Heckman’s is not entirely gone. Members of the Heckman family opened Heckman’s Delicatessen in Bethesda earlier this year. From all reports it’s one of the best Kosher delis in the area. I may have to go there for some pickles one of these days.

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Photo by PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

From a press release:

“Today, Mayor Vincent C. Gray offered his condolences to the family of Benjamin C. Bradlee, longtime Georgetown resident, legendary journalist, and distinguished editor of The Washington Post.

“Ben Bradlee was a lion in the field of journalism. He was a fearless champion of the First Amendment and government accountability and will go down in history as one of the all-time greats,” said Mayor Gray. “The District of Columbia was lucky to have him at the helm of our paper of record, The Washington Post, for so many groundbreaking years. Both our city and the country benefitted from his astute handling of such historic events as Watergate and the release of the Pentagon Papers. I send my sincere condolences to his family, including his wife, children, his former colleagues at the Post and the entire journalism community that benefited from his life’s work.”

From the Washington National Cathedral:

“Washington National Cathedral announced today that it will hold the funeral service for Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee on Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. EDT. The former editor of the Washington Post was an iconic figure in journalism over the last half century.

The service will be open to the public.”

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Photo via National Park Service

“Dear PoPville,

I was walking with a friend in Meridian Hill Park yesterday and noticed a small detail in a photo of a globe sculpture at the bottom of the park. I found a photo online that more clearly shows the globe sculpture.

However, that sculpture is no longer there, instead replaced buy a big spherical bush. Upon further investigation, it appears the pedestal is still there, in the center of the bush, but there is no sculpture.

In searching for other photos of it, I found a blog of a amateur history sleuth who has tried to track it down. The sphere was the “Armillary Sphere” and is a bit of a mystery. Apparently it was damaged in the 1960s and removed for repairs, but it’s whereabouts is unknown to the Smithsonian or National Park Service (rather amazing for a 16 foot sculpture).

Anyway, I’m not sure if there is much more than can be found out about this mystery, but I’d be fascinated if anyone knew more about it. What happened to it? Was it relocated? Stolen? Damaged?”

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801 K Street, NW Photo by PoPville flickr user JoshBassett|PHOTOGRAPHY

From a press release:

“In response to today’s decision by Events DC and the International Spy Museum to cancel their plans for a relocation of the Spy Museum to Mt. Vernon Square, the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. (HSW) wishes to clarify that this will in no way effect the continuation of the Society’s current programming and public use of the Carnegie Library. The Society looks forward to working with its main partner, Events DC, with our neighbors (old and new), and with the growing portfolio of community partners to create a new vision for Mt Vernon Square. Regardless of what the vision may include, the Society reaffirms to the local community that the Carnegie Library will continue to serve as home to its exhibit galleries, Kiplinger Research Library, historic collections, and offices well into the future.

The Historical Society has 85 years remaining on our lease at the Carnegie Library,” said Julie Koczela, Chair of the Society’s Board of Trustees. “This building has a magnificent history that fits perfectly with our mission and provides the Society with a central base to operate our library as we to continue to develop exhibits and programs that are free and open to the public. We intend to remain at the Carnegie Library as Events DC explores a restoration strategy for this beloved historical building.” (more…)

From the Library of Congress:

“We hustled the reel up to the film lab where it was prepped and cleaned for Datacine Operator Pat Kennedy to make the digital transfer; we’re photochemically preserving it on safety film stock as well. After the Senators story was excerpted and speed-corrected, I sent it pianist/Nats fan Andrew Simpson for musical scoring. Perhaps more footage will eventually turn up, but for now we’re thrilled to present the 1924 World Series champion Washington Senators in hopes that what’s past truly is prologue.

LET’S GO NATS!”

Streets of Washington, written by John DeFerrari, covers some of DC’s most interesting buildings and history. John is the author of Historic Restaurants of Washington, D.C.: Capital Eats, published by the History Press, Inc. and also the author of Lost Washington DC.

Mark Twain is said to have called it the ugliest building in America, a sentiment later echoed by President Harry S Truman, who thought it the country’s “greatest monstrosity.” Now, to tear down this monstrosity would be unthinkable. Declared a national historic landmark in 1971, the massive block-long Eisenhower Executive Office Building, as it is now called, is widely cherished as a stunningly exuberant relic from a bygone era that could never be replicated. Whatever has been thought of it across the years, the building achieves architecture’s highest calling, impressing its unique identity relentlessly upon all who witness it and demanding a response.

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(Author’s collection.)

As long as the federal government has been in Washington, cabinet department office buildings have stood on this site and the corresponding space on the other side of the President’s House. George Washington wanted them here, and under his direction, architect George Hadfield (1763-1826), designed the first two distinguished, federal-style buildings, which were ready for early bureaucrats to occupy when the government moved to Washington in 1800. After the British burned the buildings in 1814, they were reconstructed, and two more matching buildings were added, one on either side, to form a neat and symmetrical Executive Branch campus surrounding the President’s House. On the east side, along 15th Street, stood the State Department to the north and the Treasury Department to the south. To the west, along 17th Street, were the Navy and War Departments. (more…)

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Photo ‘Being There: Then (1979) & Now, 14th St & Rhode Island NW’ by PoPville flickr user number7cloud

“Still shot from the movie “Being There” filmed in 1979. Until fairly recently, Caribou Coffee was on this corner. 14th St, you’ve come a long way!”

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Photo ‘Then & Now: after the 1968 riots 7th St NW’ by PoPville flickr user number7cloud

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Photo ‘Being There: Then (1979) & Now, M St NW’ by PoPville flickr user number7cloud

“A still shot from the movie “Being There” filmed in 1979″

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Photo of ’14th and U St, NW 1988′ by Michael Horsley

“Dear PoPville,

I found these sweet photos of DC from the 1980’s and 1990’s, by a photographer Michael Horsley.

On PoPville, we tend to focus on the here and now and how much things have changed since 2000, but to me it’s amazing how far things have come since the 80’s. The people that were here way back then are really the ones that laid the groundwork for the wonderful city we have today.”

Ed. Note: We’ve been admiring this photo set since 2010. Always amazing/awesome to revisit them year after year.

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901 G Street, NW

From DCPL:

“The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro”

Tuesday, August 26, at 7 p.m. in the Great Hall. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

his talk should be fascinating to anyone interested in Metro, or in the city itself, or more broadly, in how public transit decisions are made. Besides all that, I’m expecting it to be very entertaining, because the book certainly is.

My first thought on looking into Professor Schwag’s book was that it was very densely packed with information (which it is) and might not be a fun read–but it is also that! I’ve found so many wonderful stories in it, that I think it’s safe to say that you will learn a lot, and also are likely to find something that will surprise you, or make you laugh out loud, no matter where you open the book.

An example is this comparison on page 142 of building Metro to the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, through permafrost, mountains, and tundra:

“Metro’s builders faced a challenge equal and opposite to that of their pipeline counterparts….As workers in Alaska built 800 miles of pipeline through wilderness all but uninhabited by humans, workers in Washington took up the challenge of pushing 100 miles of rapid transit through a long-settled region densely populated by lawyers.”

Actually, though I’m still chuckling over that line, other parts of The Great Society Subway have already made me realize we all owe a great debt to those lawyers and other activists, for helping us get Metro instead of a spaghetti bowl of highways in DC, and for pushing needed improvements to Metro, like elevators to serve people with mobility problems. (One Metro official seriously proposed training wheelchair riders to use the escalators, balancing on two wheels!)

The more I read, the more I came to realize that no one who wanted to truly understand Washington DC as it is today could do so without reading this book.

The author, Zachary M. Schrag, has a gift for imparting knowledge packaged in details that make the story come alive; I’m looking forward to his talk!”